Detroit is a team that is on the cusp of greatness. They are literally just a few pieces away from being a dominant team in the NFL. There will always be debate about what those pieces are, and in this mock draft, I'd like to highlight the pieces I think Detroit could utilize the most for a season in pursuit of the NFL Champions Lombardi Trophy.
We all know the bottom line: Matthew Stafford has to stay healthy for the Lions to have a dominant season in 2011. But is there more than one way to skin a cat? Why yes, there sure is.
Some think that having a great O-Line is the path to keeping Stafford upright. To some extent, that's obvious. Of course, we need an offensive line (LT included) to keep him upright. But part of keeping him upright is also a matter of not having to ask him to work miracles to win a football game (five TD's to beat the Browns as a rookie for example).
There is something to be said for a defense that regularly stops an opposing offense, limits opponents' points and maybe scores some of their own. A defense like that makes it much easier for even mediocre QB's to win championships. Just look at the Ravens of 2001 with Trent Dilfer or the Buccaneers in 2003 with Brad Johnson, or just about any Steelers Super Bowl victory, all won with mediocre QB's (Yes, I consider Ben Roethlisburger to be Mediocre QB's).
Many people believe that the path to success for the Detroit Lions to win is by keeping Matthew Stafford vertical by drafting an OT with the 13th overall position in the draft. The reasoning here is that if it weren't for Backus being such an old poor OT, he never would have given up the sack in week one that allowed Julius Peppers to level Stafford from behind, there by ending his season basically in week one.
While it is true that Backus gave up that sack, and Stafford was injured and it affected the entire season. While it is also true that Backus accepted the blame for it in the locker room after the game, it is simply not true that drafting a LT prospect at No. 13 will automatically be better than Backus and displacing him to RT allowing the new rookie to fill his shoes at LT.
Yes, Lions fans, there is a very high water mark where Jeff Backus stands, and not just any draft prospect can come in as a "plug-in-play" rookie and meet that mark.
The simple fact of this year's draft is, it's chock full of great defensive prospects, while kind of weak on offensive tackle prospects, running backs and other offensive prospects. So with no clear cut Joe Thomas in this year's draft, why would Detroit ignore a potential Durrel Revis in a corner prospect?
So with that being said, the 2011 Mock Draft V 1.2 begins with a stated goal of building Detroit's defense to a point that it can stand on it's own merits as a great core group of players.
Starting from his tenure in 2009, Mayhew and Schwartz had the No. 32 overall defense in the NFL (dead last in most categories). In 2010, they were improving to mediocre in some categories while still struggling considerably in others.
Detroit Lions 2010 defensive rankings by category
Yards Allowed;: 21st with 343.6/game
Points allowed: 19th with 365/season or 32.1/Game
3rd down Stop percentage: 13th with 39 percent
Yards Per Play: 22nd with 5.5 Yards Per Play
Plays from Scrimmage on Defense: 16th with 1,005
(For the stat gurus out there, these five categories average out to 18.2 average position among NFL competition.)
These are just a few key measurements to high lite that Detroit is headed in the right direction, but an "average" defense is not going to get the Lions into the play off's. Even if they could take all of the best LT's in the draft with out letting any other teams pick, Detroit still has to stop the other team from scoring as many points. With a heavy dose of defensive talent in this draft, look for Detroit to pick a lot of guys on the Defensive side of the ball in two weeks at the 2011 NFL Draft.